To see the previous post about our trip to New Orleans click here
After gathering our luggage we grabbed a cab and made our way towards the hotel. As we transited the overpass adjacent to the Superdome, it was difficult not to think of the images that were shown over and over on TV of the masses of people stranded with nowhere to go following hurricane Katrina. The water is gone and the dome that many probably have horrific memories of during its time as a shelter now bears the name of luxury car maker Mercedes Benz.
Most of the ride Devin giggled and squirmed in his car seat (and) attempt(ed) to look out the window. Like his father the kid suffers from serious bouts of F.O.M.O (fear of missing out) and needs to be involved and see everything that is happening.
WHERE TO STAY
Royal St. Charles – 135 St Charles Ave
Nice hotel, one block from Canal Street just opposite of the French Quarter. Located on the edge of the Warehouse district this hotel was converted from the Southern Federal Savings bank in 2000 and a perfect base location for a family trying to see as much as possible in this city. The street car stops right outside, the Quarter was close but just far enough away to be at the edge of the madness.
WHAT TO DO
Walk Bourbon Street
As soon as we reached the hotel we basically dropped everything and tossed the kid in the Kelty (for those not up on their kid accessories its a backpack you toss your child in) and hit the bricks. It was late afternoon on Wednesday so we wanted to do some wandering while we still had some sunlight. I know it seems quite obvious and touristy to go to Bourbon Street when in New Orleans. Yes the street is known for its debauchery, strippers hanging outside of clubs in hopes of luring men in for a good ole lap dance. I realize more alcohol laden puke has been spilled on these streets than the late hours of an Irish wedding, but this street has unmatched history. I had been on Bourbon years back during a bachelor party and its funny how different things look when you have a kid strapped to your back and you are gripping your wife’s hand. With that said, being all grown up didn’t stop me from taking Devin over to have his picture taken with a stripper outside the Hustler Club, waving the “Big Ass Beer” sign and drinking hand grenades with Serena while trolling the street with a nine month old looking over my shoulder.
Walk Along The Missisippi River
You can fill a few volumes of books and not begin to explain the impact this river has had on the history of this country, from the Native Americans, European Exploration, its impact during the Civil War to Hurricane Katrina. In early 2000 I sailed up the river a few times as Third Mate on a tanker called MV Delaware Trader but the view down low on the banks is completely different.
We ducked off Bourbon south towards the river. We heard the sound of someone beating some congo drums and made our way down the river towards the sound. We found a man laying a rhythm with his drum and singing the old Motown tune “My Girl”. We stopped and let Devin take in the man’s singing and rhythmic pounding on the drum . He has witnessed me doing both at home and was most likely looking at this guy thinking, ” oh this is how that is supposed to sound”. We dropped a couple bucks in his can, he smiled and passed us some beads for the baby, pausing in his rendition of My Girl to say in his thick newlines accent, ” hiswife would skin him alive if he came back with all those beads”.
We made our way a little further up the river and came upon a gaggle of homeless men occupying a park bench. One man had a sheepish grin as he held a sign that read “smile if you touch yourself”. We stopped and talked to the men then Devin took a picture with his new friends and we made our way inland to find something to eat.
WHERE TO EAT
Crescent City Brewery
We noticed a row of shops and restaurants on the first street in from the river, Decatur Street. The street was named after 19th century naval hero Stephen Decatur who’s prolific naval career was cut short after losing a duel in 1820. Along the street facing the river there are square buildings staggered in height, color and texture, red brick, pastel peach, light blue, off white. Originally named Rue de la Levee, the street once catered to sailors visiting the city, (which tells me it was a area the Captain made sure you went to by telling you to stay away and regularly inhabited by a rough and shady bunch) but made a turn around in the late 20th century catering to a more upscale crowd with commercial space and restaurants.
We noticed a place our concierge suggested, a microbrewery and eatery called Crescent City Brewery. When you walk in you can tell it’s a building with history and when it was renovated, care was taken to preserve it. The property is included in the earliest known plans of the city in 1722 as a two-story 14 room house. After the great fire of 1794 it was rebuilt and became a fur processing factory in 1912. In 1991, it opened up as the cities first microbrew in 72 years and won an award for “maintaining the integrity of the historic property and an outstanding renovation.”
A light crisp and traditionally hoppy beer with a soft palate and floral bouquet. Light both in color and taste, it is The “Classic” Old World Beer that will be most familiar to the individual who prefers domestic beers.
A combination of pork and beef stuffed in a savory pie shell with sweet peppers, onions and roasted chilies. Fried to a golden brown.
COCHON DEL LAIT POBOY -Slow roasted cajun spiced pork, housemade slaw on crispy french bread. Served with french fries
The service in this place was extremely friendly and the PoBoy, meatpie and beer made it a nice welcome to the city.
WHAT TO SEE
Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France – Jackson Square
After dinner we heard church bells ringing and this set off alarms in Serena’s head because she is a huge old church and cathedral buff. We walked towards the bells and shooting up from the opposite side of Jackson Square was what we would learn is America’s oldest standing cathedral. The first church on the site was built in 1718 and is the seat of the Archdiocese in New Orleans. This amazing building has withstood a number of hurricanes and a dynamite bomb in 1907. We walked around the interior amazed at the architecture and the ornate Holtkamp Organ. Don’t leave the French Quarter before laying an eye on this place.
It was early in the evening as we made our way back down Bourbon Street. The sun was still up but it was getting busy, live music was blowing out of every bar and a few people already had a good wobble in their step. Devin fell asleep on the walk back. It was a good first half day in the crescent city and we looked forward to exploring it more over the next three days.
Day 2 in New Orleans coming soon.